Saturday, March 10

Review: Earthlock [Nintendo Switch eShop]

While turn-based RPGs certainly reigned supreme for some time at Square’s peak in general they’ve slowed a bit. To this point I’d say the Switch’s uneven line-up reflects this, leaving opportunities for competent entries, whether AAA or indie. Earthlock’s story and characters may feel a bit underwhelming but the challenge of its battle system compensates nicely, making it a decent way to fill some time if you’re looking for your JRPG fix.

Making your way through the world of Umbra you’ll slowly accumulate a ragtag group of characters, all with their own backgrounds and motivations. The first few hours encompass this process, as you’ll move through some story beats and learn what they have to offer along the way. Whether ultimately working out as some form of support, melee fighter, ranged fighter, thief, or some combination thereof each has skills that can become vital depending on the types of foes you face. In general you’ll want to change your line-up around periodically to be sure to level each character up enough to gain their main complement of skills and hopefully figure out which pairs of characters give you the combat benefits that suit your style best.

Combat is really where the game shines, as each character has 2 different stances they can change between in battle. Managing these effectively and making the best use of each character’s skills is vital so planning not just who is in your party but even which starting stance you want them in can make the difference in tight battles. I was pleased that you’re able to wander enough in the overworld to get yourself in trouble by going to the wrong places too early, I’ve always found if you can take a few battles here and there that are tougher it makes leveling up a lot quicker so it’s appreciated. In general, though, it’s not until you hit the boss battles that you’ll typically start to feel the heat. Typically if you’re finding you’re not doing very well the problem is the composition of your team and you’ll need to adjust accordingly, looking for their weaknesses and then being sure to exploit them with the proper team.

Probably the most unusual part of the game for me is the sort of hub area where you’re able to grow plants that you can then cultivate, craft items, etc. I suppose these are in place to make the game more novel but in general for me they just felt like wasted time and more junk to carry around wondering if I really need it or not. Another area that is important but doesn’t seem to get enough focus or definition is the talent system that allows you to upgrade and somewhat specialize your character. A simpler straight-up interface without collecting cards and all would seem to be just as effective but it is what it is. Nice, but seemingly a bit over-complicated for what marginal choice it adds.

All in all Earthlock is a solid JRPG experience that should be quite welcome on the platform since it is currently a bit lacking in the genre. While it’s hardly revolutionary it does a fairly good job of delivering on what’s most important in terms of combat mechanics and fun. While it may be priced a bit high for an indie title for the most part it’s a reasonably-good investment.

Score: 7

  • Combat is strategic enough to be satisfying
  • Experimentation with pairing characters together can yield positive results
  • A clean and polished look overall

  • In general, the story and characters generally feel a bit boilerplate
  • The crafting and cultivation systems seem either under-developed or unnecessary
  • In terms of price it may be a little steep

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